India may be a diverse market in terms of geographies, languages, religions and mindsets, but the two aspects that bind the one billion plus population are Bollywood and cricket. From Bollywood music being played at weddings and public functions, to advertisements on television, there is a continuous impact of filmdom on an Indian's life.
But, is this a superficial impact or does it have far-reaching influences on the lifestyles of Indians? At FICCI Frames 2009, the panel discussing the issue seemed to believe that the influence is massive. The panel comprised Anil Prabhakar, business development manager, Gitanjali Group; Manish Malhotra, fashion designer; Atul Kasbekar, fashion photographer and owner of talent management company, Bling; Gul Panag, actor and Jacqueline Lundquist, fashion entrepreneur, USA.
The consensus was that Bollywood has not just externally impacted the nation, but influenced and altered the lifestyle of the people as well. It is common for people to request fashion designers to stitch dresses worn by film actors, as is emulating the actors. Bollywood veterans were of the opinion that the influence had reached Hollywood too.
Lundquist remarked that she visited the then president of United States, Bill Clinton in the White House wearing a saree, the traditional Indian clothing. This, according to her, was proof of the strong Indian essence that exists even in the West.
She cites the example of cult movie, Rang De Basanti, which brought to light the poor infrastructural setup and the malpractices that exist in the country. "The movies have been eye-openers on several issues, and have educated the masses and generated an opinion," she said.
Prabhakar from Gitanjali Group, which has been using celebrities extensively to promote its brands, said that a celebrity endorser ensures a great deal of appeal. "A film actor influences career choices and lifestyles," he said. "Brand ambassadors boost sales and generate recall."
This is the reason why associations of films with various brands have evolved over time and also why merchandise associated with films has become popular.
The first film merchandise to hit the market was in association with Ram Gopal Verma's movie Bhoot, under which dolls, masks and pen holders became popular. Several other movies, including Krrish, Jodha Akbar, Bhootnath, Dhoom and Om Shanti Om soon joined the bandwagon.
Kasbekar said that testimony to Bollywood's impact was the size of the celebrity endorsement market, which was worth Rs 520 crore. The growing number of celebrity brand ambassadors and the growing number of fashion trends initiated by Bollywood actors -- be it the popular Ghajini hair-cut or Shah Rukh Khan's six-pack abs -- reinstates the influence of Bollywood on consumers.
The panelists also believed that Bollywood was one of the primary platforms that had brought India to a prominent position on the world map.